Recovery Challenges: How to Avoid Relapse in Social Situations

how to avoid, group of happy friends posing for camera at christmas party

As the holiday season approaches, so does your list of “must-attend” events.

From holiday parties to family meals, you will likely be exposed to a variety of opportunities to indulge. While you may be okay enjoying that extra slice of pie, if you’re recovering from alcohol addiction, having a drink of wine or just one beer is never an option. How do you navigate this time of the year without dreading every event on your social calendar?

Avoid Isolating Situations

When attending such an event, know who will be there with you. While you don’t necessarily have to hold onto this person throughout the event, having at least one person in the room who will help reduce social anxiety and improve your ability to enjoy the experience. It allows you to avoid isolating situations that could trigger the desire to pick up a drink.

Bring Along a Supporter

Most events encourage individuals to bring someone with them, whether it is a spouse or significant other. The person you bring should be someone who understands your goals and your recovery process. Communicate with this person about your increased risks in this social gathering. Ask them to be your backup if you should falter at all in your conviction to stay sober.

If you are vulnerable to relapse, ensure that this person understands the high risk and is willing to guide you out of the way if necessary.

Recognize the Most Common Stressors and Triggers

Many people find themselves highly tempted during this time of the year. Yet, those recovering cannot afford even one misstep. To stay on track, you need to know what will push you closer to that drink. Know your triggers. The most common stressors during the holiday season include:

  • Financial strains brought on by holiday spending or the inability to achieve financial goals.
  • Emotional struggle due to confrontations with family or friends you may have drank with or those who may cause you to feel anger, desperation, fear, or anxiety.
  • Family conflict that seems to resurface during the holidays.
  • Social worries, such as worrying about being exposed to alcohol or having to answer questions about your recovery.
  • Changes in your day-to-day schedule and activities, perhaps even the temptation to miss a recovery meeting or treatment.

Recognizing these risks gives you power over them. It’s not easy, but realizing that you are not alone – just about any person recovering from alcohol has to face these very same risks every year – can help give you the edge over the temptation.

Active Steps to Take to Avoid Giving in to Triggers

Create a game plan that helps you to remain sober during the holidays by avoiding or overcoming each one of these triggers. Here are a few key steps to take to get started:

#1: Keep doing what you are doing.
Right now, you’re sober. What have you been doing to keep yourself in this state? You may have spent time with your counselor every week. You may be working on your mental health, exercise, or relationships. Keep it up. Though time can be a strain, never put any social event or other situation ahead of staying sober.

#2: Get the care you need every time you need it.
That means going to your regular group meetings. It also means meeting with your counselor and recovery team routinely. Recognize that this high-risk time also means more frequent visits to these services. That’s okay, it’s expected. Put a plan in place now that gives you time to go to an extra meeting every week.

#3: Sleep and eat normally.
It sounds simple enough, but taking care of yourself and keeping your routine in place is critical to remaining sober long term. Sleeping well (aim for 6 to 8 hours a night) and eating a nutritious diet can help give your body and brain the support it needs. It also helps you to reset some of the stress you feel during this time of the year.

#4: Decide – flight or fight.
Depending on where you are in the recovery process, you’ll need to learn how to deal with each of the triggers listed above and any others that impact you. If you are just new to this journey and working your way forward, you may not be ready to hash out the 20-year arguments you’ve had with family. In this case, avoid these triggers. If you are feeling strong and determined, it may be time to work through some of these triggers with those who cause them. Do this with your therapist by your side and only if you are sure it won’t trigger a relapse.

#5: Prepare yourself to say no.
“It’s just one drink.” “You can have one, it won’t hurt you.” “You’ll upset your mother if you don’t do this toast.” No matter what people say, how they twist your feelings and thoughts, you need to be ready to simply say no. It will not be easy, but it will help you to get through the event. Remember, you do not owe anyone an explanation. It takes a lot of courage and strength to say “no” rather than give in. This is your life and your future.

All of this starts with understanding where you are in your recovery journey. Perhaps you are just starting out, or you may be facing yet another year of holiday triggers. When you work with our team at The Ranch at Dove Tree, you’ll be given the support and tools you need to make it through this holiday a bit more easily. Are you ready for help? Contact us now.

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To learn more about our programs at Ranch at Dove Tree, please contact us today at 800.218.6727.

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